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Alexander McQueen AW16
Backstage at Alexander McQueen AW16Photography Evan Schreiber

Revisiting the five biggest moments of fashion week

From Gaga’s appearance at Marc Jacobs to the Yeezy Season 3 spectacular, here are the AW16 show season’s most memorable moments

Fashion’s current identity crisis has been well-documented. Ever since Raf Simons ducked out of his high-profile role as creative director at Christian Dior (his position remains unfilled) to focus on his own label, talk within the industry has centred around its breakneck speed and ‘broken’ logic which shows collections six months before their retail release. This state of flux was written all over AW16; iconic houses like Lanvin and Dior have shown ‘ghost’ collections without a creative director, whereas others – namely Balenciaga – have tapped fresh talent to fill their most prestigious roles.

This season also saw an increased celebrity presence; from Lady Gaga’s low-key runway appearance at Marc Jacobs to Rihanna’s goth-glam RTW debut at Fenty x Puma, the AW16 shows were littered with high-profile names. Kanye West also returned to showcase Yeezy Season 3, selecting the mammoth Madison Square Garden as his venue for a presentation which also doubled up as the exclusive premiere of his new album, The Life of Pablo. From Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga debut to Alexander McQueen’s long-awaited return to London, here are the five biggest moments of AW16.

Staged in Madison Square Garden, streamed in cinemas worldwide and attended by the entire Kardashian clan (dressed head-to-toe in custom Yeezy x Balmain), Kanye West fused a fashion show and album premiere to create a mammoth spectacle for Yeezy Season 3. Art directed by Vanessa Beecroft, the spectacle starred thousands of street-cast models as well as Insta It-kid Ian Connor, Atlanta rapper Young Thug and original super Naomi Campbell (draped in a full-length fur). Love him or hate him, you can’t deny West’s ability to cause a stir.

Gaga is no stranger to fashion week, having previously debuted “Bad Romance” at McQueen’s mammoth ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ show and taken to the runway for Mugler back in 2011. Things were different this time – instead of stealing the spotlight, she requested that she be treated as “just another beautiful girl” at Marc Jacobs’ AW16 show, resulting in a low-key runway appearance that cemented her fashion credentials. Dressed in an oversized grey overcoat and emerald fur stole, a glamorous Gaga simultaneously proved her model status and created one of the season’s most talked about moments.

THE MCQUEEN SHOW RETURNS TO LONDON

For the first time since 2002, Sarah Burton this season made the decision to bring the Alexander McQueen womenswear show back to its British roots, staging the event in London – McQueen’s birthplace. Taking inspiration from a sleepwalking muse and a series of “symbols of femininity”, Burton conjured up a collection emblazoned with butterflies, unicorns and crescent moons. As always, there was an element of subversion; mesh gowns, stiff corsetry and sex shop leather all hinted at Burton’s backstage proclamation that the McQueen women is one that truly “comes alive at night”.

DEMNA GVASALIA SHOWS BALENCIAGA DEBUT

When Balenciaga last year tapped Vetements leader Demna Gvasalia as its new creative director, the industry was excited to see how the designer’s vision would gel with the codes of an established luxury house. The answer came at Paris Fashion Week when Gvasalia showed his first collection, described as a “translation, not a reiteration” of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s iconic aesthetic. Shimmering lurex knits were teamed with oversized puffer coats, and traditional skirts were reworked with exaggerated, architectural proportions, ushering the famous house into an experimental new era.

SAINT LAURENT DOES COUTURE

Amid rumours that he was departing the house, Hedi Slimane presented his AW16 collection for Saint Laurent. But instead of riffing off a musical subculture for a range of indie wearables, the designer channelled 80s glam for a line of couture. He even staged the event in the traditional way of presenting haute couture – in silence, with a narrator announcing each look. Aligning his vision to that of the house’s founder – Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent himself – Slimane enlisted the narrator who worked with the designer for nearly 25 years.